Liatris (Blazing Star)

Liatris flower border in a walled garden

Liatris is one of many showy American natives that British gardeners have taken to their hearts. Fluffy, rose-pink flowers open from button-like buds that circle a slender tower of narrow, lance-shaped leaves.

Where groups of liatris corms are planted naturalistically, the flower plumes are dramatic, reaching up and out like grounded fireworks.

Liatris and verbena bonariensis
Liatris with Verbena bonariensis

Liatris is often suggested as a way to add vertical lines to a flower border, but you can expect to see some wavy, almost horizontal lines too. The person who planted the corms would have needed a vivid imagination to foresee these trajectories.

Liatris

Liatris with foliage

I’m not sure of the botanical names of the plants shown here – most likely Liatris spicata or Liatris pycnostachya, named cultivars, or a mix.

Flower border with liatris

As always, the folk names are more evocative: blazing star, button snakeroot, gayfeather, cat-tail liatris and hairy button.

Liatris (Blazing Star)

The towering flower spikes are unusual in that they bust into bloom from the top down, unlike most other spiky plants such as foxgloves or delphiniums.

Liatris in a mixed border at RHS Bridgewater

Sunshine sets the flowers glowing so they seem to be lit up from inside. Liatris offers a controlled waywardness, a way to inject a little fun into a sunny border or a prairie style planting.

Liatris at RHS Bridgewater

My pictures were taken in the RHS Bridgewater’s beautiful walled garden, summer 2021, and shared for Becky’s Past Squares (Lines, In the Pink, Flowers, Spiky – take your pick!)

42 Replies to “Liatris (Blazing Star)”

  1. A few years ago I saw a nice colony growing wild along the highway but they haven’t came back. This summer I found a single Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie Blazing Star) on a back road south of town. I tried growing L. spicata in a flower bed but it didn’t return the next spring. They are indeed quite a sight in mass plantings.

  2. We have several native species here, and they can be confusing. Some are more easily identified because they’re much shorter, but I’ve seen a few in east Texas that were easily more than six feet tall. There’s a pretty one I’ll be showing called L. elegans that tends toward pinkish white, and sometimes appears as a very pale greenish-whitish-yellow.

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